How to plant bulbs – with expert tips from Alan Titchmarsh

Want a brilliant show of spring colour? Discover how to plant bulbs that will come up year after year

how to plant bulbs
(Image credit: Leigh Clapp)

Spring flowers are always a welcome burst of life and colour after a long winter. But spring colour from daffodils and crocuses needs a little forward planning. In other words, if you want to see their blooms in your garden come spring, then you’ll need to know how to plant bulbs so you can get them into the ground now.

Naturalised bulbs will come up year after year, and we were delighted to see that one of our favourite gardeners and broadcasters, Alan Titchmarsh, has been sharing his advice on naturalising bulbs.

Love the idea of a garden bursting with life with flowers growing as nature intended rather than in a formal way? Just scroll down for Alan’s tips. If you’re looking for more garden ideas, you’ll find them on our dedicated page. 

1. Spring bulbs to plant now

flower bulbs daffodils

(Image credit: Leigh Clapp)

Alan suggests daffodils, crocuses and narcissi – all ideal for naturalising. But you needn’t stick to these (although we’d definitely want to include them for the best show of spring colour).

Which other flowers might you also want to brighten your spring garden with? Tulips are a welcome spring sight, as are snowdrops. Cyclamen are also perfect for naturalising under trees. And don’t miss out on bluebells which will create a carpet of glorious colour.

Use our guide to how to plant daffodil bulbs to find out more.

2. Dig down

How deep should you plant bulbs? That’s easy with Alan’s rule of thumb. They should go at three times their own depth. Crocuses have relatively small bulbs, so you won’t need to go down far with them, but daffodil bulbs are rather more sizeable customers, so be prepared to dig right down to put these in.

You’ll likely be planting bulbs in grass to create a natural look, so Alan suggests getting yourself a bulb planter to help with the task. It’ll ensure creating the holes for your bulbs is quicker and easier. 

3. Swerve a formal look

To avoid growing daffodils that look formal – or like soldiers, as Alan says – he advises planting them in groups about 7.5 to 8cm apart. But how do you create a group that looks like you didn’t actually make it? It’s easy with Alan’s method. Just grab the bulbs, throw them on to the ground, and plant as they fall.

4. Make crocus planting simple

Alan has a neat trick when it comes to getting crocuses to appear across your lawn when spring arrives. You’ll need to cut into a section of turf with a spade, then gently lift the grass away from the soil below. 

Next, make little holes and plant a group of crocus bulbs. You can aim for around six or 12 together, around 4cm apart, Alan says. Then move the soil back over the bulbs, lightly firming it above them. All you need to do then is roll the turf back on top, and await your spring flowers appearing through the lawn.

5. Hold back on the mowing

This isn’t a to-do now task, but you should make note of it if you want the bulbs you’ve put in this autumn to keep flowering year after year. You can’t cut the leaves of your plants as soon as the flowers are gone, Alan advises, so when you mow the lawn, you’ll have to go round them for six weeks after flowering.

Yes, that does mean you will have to put up with a bit of messiness, but we think you’ll agree that it’s worth it for the spring spectacle. And if you really think you have a low tolerance threshold for an untidy lawn even if the situation’s only temporary, take on board Alan’s reminder that crocuses have shorter foliage that won’t look quite so messy.

Check out Alan Titchmarsh’s advice on naturalising bulbs

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